Archive for the ‘car maintenance’ Tag

How to Communicate for Better Automotive Service

Today’s cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic computers, unibody construction, and more. They run better, longer, and more efficiently than models of years past.

But when it comes to repairs, some things stay the same. Whatever type of repair facility you patronize–dealership, service station, independent garage, specialty shop, or a national franchise–good communication between the customer and the shop is vital.

The following tips should help you along the way:

Do your homework before taking your vehicle in for repairs or service.

– Read the owner’s manual to learn about the vehicle’s systems and components.

– Follow the recommended service schedules.

– Keep a log of all repairs and service.

When you think about it, you know your car better than anyone else. You drive it every day and know how it feels and sounds when everything is right. So don’t ignore its warning signals.

Use all of your senses to inspect your car frequently. Check for:

– Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.

– Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.

– Worn tires, belts, hoses.

– Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.

– Note when the problem occurs.

– Is it constant or periodic?

– When the vehicle is cold or after the engine has warmed up?

– At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting?

– When did the problem first start?

Professionally run repair establishments have always recognized the importance of communications in automotive repairs.
Once you you are at the repair establishment, communicate your findings.

– Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In larger shops you’ll probably speak with a service writer/service manager rather than with the technician directly.)

– Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service manager.

– Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell where it hurts and how long it’s been that way, but let the technician diagnose and recommend a remedy.

Stay involved…Ask questions.

– Ask as many questions as you need. Do not be embarrassed to request lay definitions.

– Don’t rush the service writer or technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins.

– Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

– Leave a telephone number where you can be called.

Read more at: http://www.ase.com/News-Events/Publications/Glove-Box-Tips/How-to-Communicate-for-Better-Automotive-Service.aspx

Protect Your Auto Investment

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be an ASE-certified automotive technician, consider this: In the span of one career, automotive engine technology alone has advanced from purely mechanical devices that need periodic adjustments to sophisticated, computer-controlled systems that can actually compensate for normal wear.

The same can be said for virtually every major system on today’s vehicles, from brakes to transmissions. And the technicians who service and maintain our vehicle fleet have had to learn it all. In fact, to be an ASE-certified automotive technician today is to commit to a lifetime of training just to keep abreast of changing technology.

Maintenance more necessary than ever before

Modern vehicles are wonders of engineering. In just the past decade, maintenance intervals for things like spark plugs, emissions and cooling systems have been stretched out to 100,000 miles in some vehicles.

But the need for periodic maintenance hasn’t changed. In fact, given the longer life expectancy of today’s vehicles, the need for periodic maintenance has never been greater if you expect to get the most from what has become the second biggest investment most individuals will ever make.

To protect this investment and to get the maximum reliability and safety from the vehicle you depend upon daily, you need to establish and follow a maintenance plan. The best place to start a maintenance program is by reading your owner’s manual. In it you will find the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.

This schedule is based on “normal” driving, but remember that very few of us drive “normally.” The roads are typically dusty and strewn with potholes and speed bumps. Look at the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule as a starting point for your vehicle maintenance plan, not the final authority.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the non-profit organization that tests and certifies the competence of individual automotive repair technicians, knows a few things about vehicle maintenance too. ASE offers some general recommendations, which apply to all types of cars and trucks, to help you build a comprehensive vehicle maintenance plan.

Lube for life

The engine is the heart of your vehicle and probably the most costly to repair when something goes wrong. Modern electronic controls have eliminated a lot of adjustments, and what we used to call a “tune-up” has evolved into something akin to a complete physical, where most of the work involved is designed to verify proper operation of computer control systems.

While it’s true that new cars and trucks run cleaner than ever before, the engine and all its related control systems must be kept operating exactly as designed to prevent increased engine emissions and a host of driveability problems.

The one thing experts agree on that you can do to add many miles to your engine is regular oil and filter changes. Most auto manufacturers recommend oil and filter changes every 7,500 miles or six months under “normal” conditions, but repair experts believe a better interval is every 3,000 miles or three months. By changing the oil regularly, the inside of your engine will stay clean, and you’ll avoid damaging sludge buildup.

Keeping cool

Today’s cars also tend to run hotter than previous models. With the trend to downsize vehicle components to save space and weight, cooling system components are being asked to do more than their older counterparts.

The best thing you can do to maintain the cooling system at peak efficiency during the life of your car is to replace the coolant according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Although some of the newer coolants last longer, antifreeze does wear out. By replacing the coolant periodically, you insure that the corrosion inhibitors are fresh and are helping to eliminate the scale and corrosion that builds up inside the cooling system.

Fluid facts

Probably the most ignored fluid in the car — and the most important — is the brake fluid. Brake fluid is not a petroleum-based product, so it does absorb moisture from the air. This hygroscopic quality diminishes its effectiveness and lowers braking performance.

Sludge will also build up over a period of time, blocking the valves inside antilock brake (ABS) units and resulting in costly repairs or replacement. In addition, this sludge may cause calipers and wheel cylinders to leak, also resulting in repairs or replacement. Experts recommend having the brake fluid flushed and refilled periodically, although manufacturer recommendations vary as to how often.

The transmission fluid also needs to be changed on a regular basis to help keep the transmission in tip-top shape. Here again, some manufacturers have increased maintenance intervals to 100,000 miles for transmission fluid changes, but these systems still need periodic maintenance. Most transmission failures can be directly traced to a lack of maintenance. When planning your maintenance schedule, consider that even one transmission replacement will probably greatly exceed the cost of all the fluid and filter changes for the entire life of the car.

Power steering is another fluid that is often ignored. It is recommended that it be flushed and refilled at least as often as you replace the brake fluid.

Replacing the differential fluid is something that is most often overlooked. A regular fluid change will help the differential last the life of the vehicle. If your vehicle is four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, change the transfer case fluid as well.

Get out the grit

Filters play a critical part of a regular vehicle maintenance plan. Air and fuel filters keep dirt and abrasive grit out of the engine. Problems arise when these filters get dirty and start to clog up. Many driveability problems, such as hesitation and rough idle, can stem from dirty air and fuel filters. For maximum effectiveness, they should be replaced about every 15,000 miles, but driving in dusty conditions can require more frequent air filter changes.

A filter that is often overlooked is the carbon canister filter. It is an important part of the emission control system and filters the incoming air that this system uses. The canister is an integral part of today’s engine management system, and a clogged canister filter can also result in driveability or emissions problems.

Some cars still have a positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) filter, also called a breather element. This filters the air for the PCV system to ensure clean air enters the engine crankcase. Most cars today draw air for the PCV system from the air cleaner housing so this filter is not needed, but if your engine has one, replace it at 15,000 mile intervals as well.

Speaking of the PCV system, the PCV valve (if equipped) should be replaced on a regular basis, too. When you put the new PCV filter in, replace the PCV valve as well. Many cars now use a metered orifice instead of a PCV valve and this should be checked periodically for free flow.

Today’s ‘tune-up’

Ignition systems have become much more reliable over the years. Many engines don’t even have distributors anymore; they use a DIS or Direct Ignition System. These systems can either mount one ignition coil on each spark plug, or share one coil for two plugs, thus eliminating the need of a distributor.

On engines that still use a distributor, it is a good idea to replace the distributor cap, distributor rotor and ignition wires according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

The spark plugs need to be replaced on a regular basis as well. Even though some manufacturers have extended those intervals to 100,000 miles, this doesn’t apply to all engines. The best plug to use is the one the manufacturer recommends. This information is usually found on an engine decal located under the hood.

Belt basics

Perhaps the most critical engine component these days is the timing belt. Most manufacturers suggest replacing the timing belt every 60,000 miles.

Not all engines use a timing belt, but on those that do, it’s critical that it be replaced before it breaks. If your car has an interference engine where the valves and pistons occupy the same place in the combustion chamber at different times, serious engine damage can occur if the belt breaks while operating. If your car has a non-interference engine, the worst that will happen is you get stranded somewhere.

Other engine drive belts should be checked on a regular basis — about as often as you change oil. In general, you should look for excessively cracked, glazed or frayed belts. Many accessories — including the alternator, power steering pump and coolant pump — are operated by drive belts. If these belts break or slip, the components they drive will fail to work, leaving you stranded.

One more thing to check while you’re looking at the belts is the battery. Virtually all batteries are maintenance-free these days, except for a periodic terminal cleaning and inspection for cracks or leaks. In addition, ensure the battery is mounted securely.

Tire tips

Tires are one of the most important maintenance items under your car. The best way to get the most out of your tires is by having them rotated and balanced on a regular basis, about every 7,500 miles. This ensures they wear evenly and last as long as possible.

Balancing is important to eliminate vibration at road speeds, and a properly balanced tire reduces the stress and strain on shocks, struts and steering parts. Keeping the tire pressures set to specification will also go a long way in extending tire life and fuel economy.

Seeing clearly

Finally, you should get in the habit of replacing your wiper blades once a year. The Car Care Council recommends replacing them each spring, when you set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time.

Wiper refills are the most inexpensive safety feature on your vehicle. And if you doubt having good wipers is a safety feature, try driving with bad ones in a downpour at night.

If you live in an area that suffers cold and snowy winters, you may want to change to winter blades in the fall and go back to regular blades in the spring.

Following a regular vehicle maintenance program is the best insurance you have against unexpected breakdowns and expensive repairs. It also pays dividends by allowing you to get the most out of your transportation investment.

With a little forethought and TLC, that family chariot can reliably deliver a couple of hundred thousand miles of service.

Read more at: http://www.ase.com/News-Events/Publications/Car-Care-Articles/Protect-Your-Auto-Investment.aspx

Avoid a Breakdown with a Belt Check

BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — You may not see them, or know much about them, but engine belts are always working to keep your vehicle moving. Losing a belt can mean immediate trouble for the engine and a breakdown for you. The Car Car Council recommends motorists “be car care aware” and review the owner’s manual to ensure that belts are inspected and replaced at the proper intervals.

A vehicle’s belts are essential to the cooling, air conditioning and charging systems of the engine. Serpentine belts are used to turn the water pump, alternator, power steering and air-conditioning compressor. Older cars use V-belts for various accessories and failure of this belt could strand a driver.

“You don’t want to be stranded because of a bad belt that could have been diagnosed with simple preventative maintenance,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “If the serpentine belt fails or breaks, the engine will fail to run and you may be stuck. The Car Care Council recommends replacing belts at specified intervals to save you from the hassle of a breakdown.”

Results of vehicle inspection events conducted around the country during National Car Care Month in April and Fall Car Care Month in October revealed that 12 percent of vehicles had belts in need of replacement.

Always check serpentine and V-belts for looseness and their overall condition. Replace V-belts when cracked, frayed, glazed or showing signs of excessive wear. Noise in the belt system is a sign of wear and the smell of burnt rubber can indicate a slipping belt. When changing a serpentine belt, it is important to check all the components in the serpentine system as tensioners and pulleys wear at the same rate as the belt and should be inspected.

Typical serpentine belt replacement is 60,000 to 90,000 miles. Typical V-belt replacement is 40,000 to 50,000 miles. Replace the timing belt per interval specified in the owner’s manual.

The non-profit Car Care Council has a free 80-page Car Care Guide for motorists that features several pages of information on the functionality of belts and when to replace them. Available in English and Spanish, the popular guide uses easy-to-understand everyday language rather than technical automotive jargon, fits easily in a glove box and can be ordered by visiting http://www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a free copy of the council’s popular Car Care Guide or for more information, visit http://www.carcare.org.

SOURCE Car Care Council

Read more at: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/avoid-a-breakdown-with-a-belt-check-300030056.html

When Should I Change My Oil?

An engine oil change is a relatively simple service. It’s widely touted as the single most important part of your car’s maintenance schedule. There is a good reason for this. Nothing will shorten engine life faster than missed oil changes. But how can you tell when you should change your oil?  Advances in technology and increased consumer awareness have created some confusion to how often this needs to happen.

The Easy Answer

For most of us, all we need to do is follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for oil change intervals. Their guidelines are designed to keep your car in good running condition for a long time. Where can you find your car’s service schedule for oil changes and other recommended maintenance? You can check the owner’s manual that hopefully you have kept in a handy place like your car’s glove box. You might also visit the manufacturer’s website and do a search to download it.

Quick lube shops have their own recommendations. One thing to remember is that these shops are speaking to a wide audience, addressing cars of every age, every mileage, and some with different needs. While there is no harm done by too frequent oil changes, if your car doesn’t need them, that money could be better spent on other maintenance needs.

Don’t Put It Off

If you have ever put off a trip to the grocery store or waited a couple of weeks longer between haircuts, don’t do that with oil changes. Never put it off.  Your oil’s primary function is to cut friction. Over time, oil accumulates contaminants and loses viscosity (the ability to flow into every nook and cranny). Contaminants cause friction as parts rub together. Friction wears out those parts faster. The damage caused by these conditions is largely irreversible without an engine overhaul or replacement.

Waiting for the low oil light to come on can be the worst thing you can do to your engine. You shouldn’t see that light unless your oil level is low. So you don’t want to see it. Whatever amount of oil you do have left almost certainly has lost its ability to function properly. The good news is that your service schedule is written to have this service done long before disaster is on the horizon.

Cars are Smarter Now

For a very long time the gold standard for oil changes was 3,000 to 3,500 miles. There are still many adherents to this philosophy, but it may not be necessary. Advances in engineering to both engine mechanical parts and especially to oil itself have extended the oil life cycle by more than double the old number.

Do you use synthetic oil?  Automakers recommend it for some models. It cost a little more than regular oil, but it has had the biggest impact on oil life. The life cycle for synthetics is typically 7,000 to 10,000 miles, a big change from conventional oil. The type of driving we do also affects our oil change needs. Frequent cold starts, extreme heat, and towing, are all examples of types of driving that can shorten our oil life. Also, repeated short trips (under 4 miles) is one of the most overlooked enemies of oil life. Any of these driving conditions can create the need to shorten your service interval by 25-40 percent depending on the severity.

If your car is equipped with a maintenance reminder on the dash some the guesswork is eliminated for you. Can you trust it? For the most part, yes. In the early days of automobiles the only way we had to track our vehicle’s aging was the odometer. But miles traveled is not always a good indicator of actual use for many urban environments. With the inclusion of computers in the modern automobile we now have a way for the car to track time AND mileage. Time is important to this discussion because running time affects oil life.

But not all maintenance indicators work the same way. Some use an electronic sensor to measure the oil quality, while others use an algorithm based on driving metrics to determine life expectancy. If your car is not equipped with maintenance light or gauge, the owner’s manual should still be your guide.

Don’t Buy Cheap Oil

All of these scenarios assume you are using the factory-recommended lubricant. If you have opted for something inferior you may be adversely affecting the recommendation. It’s not worth a few dollars to shortcut on the oil.

Track Your Maintenance

Because time is important as well as mileage, it’s nice to try and plan our service visits. The little sticker in the corner of the windshield was a small, important innovation to help us plan. Before that, many people kept a paper record in their glove box as well. But now, with many of us carrying smart phones and having home computers, it’s gotten even easier. MyCarfax is a website and a free smart phone app that will track all of your car’s maintenance needs, making it even easier to keep track of, and plan, your next service.

Read more at: http://www.carfax.com/blog/when-to-change-oil/